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How To Stop Stress Eating

How To Reach For Your Gym Shoes Instead Of Chocolate When You're Stressed

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Updated November 01, 2012

How To Stop Stress Eating
Photo from iStockPhoto.com
We all know that there are healthy ways to cope with stress, and less-healthy ways. Most of us have at least heard of strategies like meditation, exercise, and stress-relief breathing, whether we have learned the specifics on how to practice these techniques for stress management. However, when under pressure, many people--even those who have practiced healthy coping techniques like those mentioned above--are more tempted to reach for food as a source of comfort. (People also indulge in alcohol, tend to shop in excess, or overdo it in other ways that bring temporary relief but can cause long-term problems, but food is one of the biggest temptations.)

This is known as emotional eating, or "stress eating," or other terms that all refer to the consumption of food for reasons other than nutrition. People may crave sweets more strongly, junk food may sound more attractive, or people may eat more or less than usual. (Chocolate can be a particularly strong temptation.) Most people would prefer to be managing stress in healthier ways, but when stress levels are high, many people find it much more tempting to indulge in something delicious than to hit the gym.

How does one stop stress eating and become a person who relieves stress with exercise, meditation, or other healthier techniques? There are several strategies that can help. If you find yourself to be an emotional eater, the following tips can help you work your way to a healthier stress management plan.

Use Easy Stress Relievers

Some stress management techniques require very little effort and help you to feel less stressed in subtle ways. Aromatherapy and music, for example, can help you to feel more calm without you having to lift a finger. If you tend to stress eat when you are feeling overwhelmed, you can add some of these stress-relieving elements to your environment, you can get yourself to a place where you are less tempted to overindulge, and more energized for proactive stress management techniques.

Keep Healthy Food On Hand

One of the easier ways to avoid the negative effects of emotional eating is to stock your home with healthier food. If you don't have the temptation of unhealthy food beckoning you from the kitchen, you are far less likely to indulge when stressed. And if you do relieve stress with food, you're not hurting anything if you binge on carrot sticks.

Drown Your Cravings

If you keep yourself filled on healthy liquids such as water, tea, or diluted juices, you'll have less room for unhealthy food, and less of a craving for it.

Indulge, But In Small Doses

One small piece of dark chocolate, when savored, can actually be healthy for you, and can be a good stress relief tool as well. (Learn to practice the chocolate meditation.) If you do not want to give up your chocolate (or tortilla chips or ice cream) during times of stress, simply consume less of it, and savor what you have. In a way, it's the best of both worlds.

Practice Stress Management When You Are Not Stressed

If you have a regular habit of working out at the gym, you'll be more likely to use exercise as a coping mechanism when stress levels are high. The same is true for meditation. With these healthy coping techniques, it helps to make them a regular habit--they bring cumulative benefits, and it's easier to continue a habit like these than to start one. Make them a regular part of your life, and they just may be the first thing you crave when you need some stress relief. (And if not, at least it will be easier to shun food for these healthier coping options.

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